A People in Exile (Part 1)
Second Isaiah, so called because his book of prophecy was affixed to Isaiah's, had the ability to interpret events in the light of the fundamental conviction that God was the supreme director of all movements of history. He spent most of his life proclaiming to his people, their deliverance and restoration. It was all so certain to this prophet that he saw it already accomplished. The power of religion has seldom been more beautifully expressed. The prophet's own experience; his own enthusiasm, his own optimism shines through his words as clearly as sunlight shines through a window.
The portrait presented to us in Isaiah by this nameless prophet of God depicts a troubled people in a troubled land.
Awake, awake, O Zion, clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garments of splendor, O Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again. Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, O Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, O captive Daughter of Zion. Isaiah 52:1-2 (NIV).
The Israelites were struggle weary, hopeless, a haggard group of people who were dried out from suffering. In the great Babylonian civilization they constantly felt the tremendous power of the Chaldean Empire. Its mighty armies, gigantic buildings and great material wealth had crushed all hope out of their hearts. This poor lifeless despondent group of Jewish slaves succumbed to the idea that Babylon was far too mighty, far too powerful to be overthrown. They were a troubled people in a troubled land.
I ruminated over the fact that there are so many today who feel exactly the way the Israelites felt. A mood of disillusion has take possession of our lives. The dark cloud of apprehension and fear hangs over us. A sense of futility has somehow overlaid our hopes and taken captive our faith. Instead of us determining our own course, forces beyond our control seem to determine it for us. Many, many folks today feel powerless and frustrated. Many have not only lost their sense of internal reference, but they have also lost their sense of direction.
Washington, the seat of government, cannot ease our mental stress because we realize that even after Watergate, Camp David, peace talks, arms limitations, treaties and new presidents; the situation in this world is still grave.
While some of us are dying from overeating, people all around the world die daily of starvation. The sharp sword of nuclear holocaust dangles impatiently over our heads. There is weather upset, fuel crisis, mindless crime, political corruption at all levels. And, as if this wasn't enough, our own personal and individual problems appear to be mounting. Some folks because of the price hard times entail and some, caught up in the conflict of these times are being torn asunder.
Life is restless. It's untamed and moody and perilous. Life does not flatter you. It offers you toil and labor. It has in its bosom every possible danger in many modes of death: famine, fire, shipwreck, earthquake, hurricanes, plane crashes, cold, snow storms, and tornadoes.
We are born, no reason given. We just suddenly become aware one day that we are man or woman, an African pigmy, an Egyptian Pharaoh, a Chinese coolie, Abraham Lincoln or Jeffrey Dalmer. We are ushered into the Stone Age or Dark Age or Age of Technology. We inherit according to birth; belief in voodoo, Christianity, atheism or Judaism. We are born into this world to live and yet many die in infancy. Others, due to some unfortunate twist in fate, die in middle life and others live to a ripe old age.
And then we ask ourselves upon what principles are we allotted our looks. What is it that makes us ugly or attractive or "plain?" What is it that gives us a musical ear or an artistic eye; an affectionate disposition or an uncontrollable temper, a talent for mathematics or skills of language?
What about these frames in which we live with their tiresome demands and endless complaints. Our bodies do as they please with us. They become coronary prone, diabetic, emphysemic, burdened down with cancer. They mar our best intentions. They reinforce that which is low in us and keep our bodies in need of constant repair.
When you consider nature as our mother, she certainly is not the best of teachers.
(continued in Part 2)
Rev. Saundra L. Washington, D.D., is an ordained clergywoman, veteran social worker, and Founder of AMEN Ministries. http://www.clergyservices4u.org. She is also the author of two coffee table books: Room Beneath the Snow: Poems that Preach and Negative Disturbances: Homilies that Teach. Her new book, Out of Deep Waters: My Grief Management Workbook, will be available in July.
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